If we understand the basics of communication, why are so many "battles" caused or at least intensified by misunderstanding? One of the things I learned as a result of a stroke is about the way we think and communicate. I thought I was normal and the rest of the world was crazy (for those who haven't yet caught up with it, I have an weird sense of humour - please don't take offence at this). After the stroke, I spent 2.5 years without "my mind". It was a slow, difficult and frustrating time. Then my mind returned (suddenly as opposed to gradually) - and in less than a week I was again apologising to my wife for the same sort of things I'd apologised to her for when I realised how my way of thinking had caused her considerable stress. Habits take considerable effort to break - recognising them is only the first step.

Since those days I've often watched people arguing and understood that many times they aren't really listening to and hearing from each other. They hear the words - but they each attribute different meanings to the words. With politicians we've become accustomed to them not really listening - but for normal people (including couples who love each other deeply) it can seem as though the wires have really become entangled. Now there are a range of issues which complicate this beyond the normal difficulties.

One example is inter-racial couples. It has been shown that there are no significant genetic differences between races - although some races have clearly lost genetic traits not suitable to their environment, for example. But we all come from the same stock, and there is much evidence to support our genetic similarity. But when I talk about inter-racial couples, I'm talking primarily about cultural differences.

An example in NZ is the English and Maori cultures. I'm from English stock, and recognise a common trait which differs considerably from Maori (and Pacific) cultures. I grew up in a family of four - and thought that was just the way life is. Tell that to those from a Maori background and they'll laugh, or just be politely incredulous. The phrase "cuzzy" seems to illustrate that. People may not be cousins - but they're all cuzzy's. And while this is in Maori thinking, similar concepts exist in other cultures.

So when someone talks of family - to me that's Dad, Mum and their children. What else could it mean? Apparently quite a lot.

Of course there are other cultural differences. One is of age - not race. People born from about 1980 have been identified as fundamentally different - more so than with other generations. Words and phrases used by that generation can sound familiar - but have very different meanings. For example many of us remember having when a "gay old time", or someone being "gay", meant something totally different from today. This is perhaps best portrayed in George Orwell's "Animal farm" - but occurs today in our Western culture - especially among younger generations.

Cultural difficulties aside, communication between two people from the same culture (although some would say heterosexual couples are from two different cultures anyway) is fraught enough with difficulty. Each person comes from a whole world which they assume is common when in fact it is not. On big examples like those presented earlier, it is perhaps more obvious that these need to be worked through. On the more subtle issues, people often aren't even aware there are issues to consider.

I've started to appreciate just how different people can be. that includes how differently we think. We can use the same word but assume two different worlds of meanings.

I enjoy debating ideas. It's people who have argued with me over many years who have led me to amend my understanding of all sorts of ideas. Some changes have been major - some less so. Most discussions were "passionate" - but never personal. When people stop listening and arguing, they just spout words that mean nothing to me. So in recent times I have avoided those debates. They mean nothing, convey nothing positive and waste time and energy.